ERCIM News No.27 - October 1996

Digital Libraries: A New Challenge

by Costantino Thanos

The recent development of the information infrastructures is rapidly making available thousands of information repositories, wide bandwidth data networks and information appliances, and advanced communications and information access services. The development of those technologies that will make feasible the efficient and cost effective development of on-line interactive multimedia applications, which require coherent access to large distributed, organised repositories of information and knowledge, is thus becoming increasingly crucial.

The Digital Library (DL) is a very important application area of the information infrastructures. In particular, from the technological point of view, DL systems will contribute greatly to the development of the critical information management technology for the information infrastructure. Digital library technologies include:

In addition, digital library technologies must provide for dependability, manageability, ease of use, inter-operability, security, and privacy.

At the same time, digital libraries will soon represent the primary information and knowledge repositories of the information infrastructures. Their importance from the educational, social and economic point of view is already evident. In conclusion, digital libraries will constitute the core of the information infrastructures.

Given the crucial role of digital library technologies in the exploitation of the information infrastructures and in order to be able to develop large digital library applications efficiently and in a cost-effective manner, a scientific programme should:

In fact, ERCIM has recognised the importance of these technologies and has thus decided to establish an ERCIM programme for R&D in the Digital Library sector (see "The ERCIM Digital Library Initiative").

Our objective here is thus to contribute to a better knowledge of current research and development activities in the digital libraries field in various countries throughout the world. Obviously, it is not a complete overview but, nevertheless, we hope that it gives a good picture of the on-going activities in this new and important field.

The contributions are divided into two sections. In the first section, short descriptions of important national projects on the construction of digital library systems are reported. The second section focuses on Digital Libraries related research activities currently under way at single ERCIM member organizations.

I should like to thank all the contributors for having accepted our invitation to give a brief overview or presentation of their activities or of some of the most important activities carried out in their country.

Please contact:
Costantino Thanos - IEI-CNR
Tel: +39 50 593492

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